THE MUSIC FLOWS POWERFULLY AND FREELY LIKE A RIVER FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MIND TO THE AUDIENCE OF THE SEA. THE INSTRUMENT IS ONLY A MINDLESS BRASS TUBE BETWEEN THE TWO. THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW.
Saturday, June 5, 2021
SING BUZZ PLAY Transcending the mindless brass tube in your hands with the musical sound you hear in your mind.
THE MUSIC FLOWS POWERFULLY AND FREELY LIKE A RIVER FROM THE MOUNTAINS OF THE MIND TO THE AUDIENCE OF THE SEA. THE INSTRUMENT IS ONLY A MINDLESS BRASS TUBE BETWEEN THE TWO. THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW.
Friday, June 4, 2021
A STORY OF ARNOLD JACOBS
ARTISTRY, TEACHING, STUDENTS, AUDIENCE
him. His wife Gizella and family members, always called him Arnold.
It is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.
I am telling a story to an audience when I play.
Whether they realize it or not, most professional brass players have been profoundly influenced by the teaching of Arnold Jacobs.
MY FIRST OPPORTUNITY
I first encountered the greatness of Arnold Jacobs and The Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1963. I was a 14 year old high school tuba player who loved music but didn't play very well. I was fortunate to be invited to Orchestra Hall by a classmate, whose father was an esteemed horn player in the orchestra. Attending the magnificent concert was a life changing experience, but I didn't meet Jake until the beginning of my senior year in high school in September, 1966.
I was so impressed by the sound of the orchestra and Jake's incredible presence, that my life in music was completely transformed. I immediately dedicated myself to a disciplined practice schedule, but I was no longer just mindlessly fingering and blowing a tuba. I strove to sound like Jake but I also imitated the power and musical character of the entire orchestra. Every day I imitated the sound that had made such a powerful impression on my mind with my tuba. It was a vivid aural picture of what greatness in music should sound like. Gradually, the sound coming from my bell became more like what I heard sitting in the Gallery of Orchestra Hall. Others heard it as well.
I progressed from being a rudimentary high school tuba player to developing a reputation as a somewhat accomplished one. Wonderful opportunities began to come my way but the greatest of all was yet to come. Several people mentioned my name to Jake, but at first he put them off. Their persistence eventually provided me an opportunity to play for him at his home on the south side of Chicago. I grew up and lived only a few miles away.
My first meeting with Jake was not intended to be a lesson. It was an audition for the possibility of a
future lesson. What an incredible experience! Jake instructed me to play anything I wanted.
Of course, I wanted him to hear the sound that I strove for day after day for over three years. The process was nothing more than imitating his sound and that of the entire orchestra. I played for about 30 minute without comment or instruction from Jake. Then he said these words that forever changed my life in music.
“You sound like you have already been studying with me for three years.”
At that moment, I didn't fully understand the significance of what he had said. Yes, I had been studying with him for three years! Hearing his powerful sound and that of the entire orchestra was all that I needed.
Our close relationship developed at an opportune time, because he required an assistant tuba player in the orchestra, I needed opportunity. For six years, I played when he was ill or took vacation time. I also played occasional second tuba parts.
In 1967, I was a music student at Roosevelt University, located only a couple of blocks from Orchestra Hall. I was always available to substitute at a moment notice. In the early 70s, Jake thought his asthma might require early retirement. Fortunately, new medications were developed that allowed him to continue his playing career for many more years.
THE FIRST SOUNDS FROM A BOY WITH A BUGEL
One day, young Arnold returned home from a Boy Scout meeting with a bugle. He volunteered to be the bugler for his troupe but he new nothing about how to play it. Arnold only understood that he needed to produce sound with his lips in the mouthpiece. His mother was an accomplished pianist, but she new nothing about how to play a brass instrument. She was aware of the simple melody (Taps) that was traditionally played on the bugle for solemn military ceremonies.
Arnold's first experiences as a bugler later became the basis for his success as a professional musician and teacher. It was a very simplistic approach to motivating the very complex mechanical function required to play. His mother played the notes on the piano and Arnold imitated the sounds he heard with the bugle. Arnold's success eventually lead to an opportunity to play the trumpet.
I was a pretty good trumpet player until the first (analytical) teacher came along.
I never heard Jake discuss his displeasure with his trumpet teacher, other than that disparaging comment. I suspect that his disappointment motivated his interest in learning a different instrument. He noticed a used trombone for sale for $10 in the window of a pawn shop and asked his mother to purchase it for him. It was an great investment in his future, that of his family, and those who followed.
We must give dominance to the music not the instrument..
Arnold excelled playing the trombone the same as he did with the other instruments. His primary focus was always on producing musical sounds, never only playing the instrument. In 1930 at the age of 15, he won a full scholarship on trombone to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His entire family drove across the country from California to Philadelphia with his trombone strapped to the outside of their car. After stopping for dinner one evening, they discovered that the trombone was missing.
I didn't find the tuba. The tuba found me.
Upon arriving at Curtis, Arnold explained to an administrator that his trombone was lost and he had no replacement. The school didn't have a trombone either, but they did have an old dusty tuba that nobody seemed interested in playing. He remarked that the tuba mouthpiece felt like a coffee cup on his lips. It didn't matter because he didn't play any instrument by feel awareness. He always played by sound awareness.
CURTIS AND BEYOND
Jake soon developed into an accomplished tuba player. He was very fortunate to play under the direction of the great maestro, Fritz Reiner. Jake said he spent more time with Reiner than his father. After graduating from Curtis, he and Reiner were reunited in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. Jake greatly credits Reiner for influencing his musical development, but pleasing the maestro was always a challenge.
I was tested every time I played in Reiner's orchestra.
After playing tuba for only three years, Jake won the job as principal tubist with the Boston Symphony. However, he declined the position because he was a member of the musicians union and Boston was a non-union orchestra. Jake was advised that he might be expelled from the union if he took the job.
While at Curtis and throughout his life, Jake supported his family financially. As a student in the early 1930s, he played tuba in ballroom orchestras around Philadelphia. One day the orchestra leader asked, “Arnold, can you play string bass?” The country was in the grip of The Great Depression so his is family depended on his income. Sure, I play string bass!
Jake had never played a note on the bass but he knew he had to acquire one and learn to play it. He found an instrument and put chalk marks on the fingerboard. He didn't require instruction about how to play because he knew what the instrument should sound like.
Jake remarked that he eventually could play the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven quite well. When he came to Chicago in the late 1940s, he worked around town on bass and tuba to supplement his income from the orchestra and teaching. Jake retired from the orchestra in 1988, but he never retired from teaching. When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Jake always responded...
I want to be remembered most for my teaching.
It didn't matter what instrument Jake had in his hands. His imaginative musical mind always transcended the mindless brass tube or wooden box he was holding to deliver beautiful sound to an audience.
There are two instruments. One in the hands and one in the head. The one in the hands is a mirror reflecting the one in the head.
THE HOME STUDIO
For many years, Jake taught in a small room located in the front of the basement of his home. He created a very unique environment that had a powerful psychological influence on everyone who experienced it. The room was filled with various devices including meters, gauges, breathing apparatuses and anatomical charts. They seemed to engulf the only two chairs present in the small space. It was an impressive presentation that made everyone realize that they were in Jake's world and were completely under his influence. He seemed to enjoy every moment. Jake rarely used any of the devices with me, but their presence had a powerful influence on my mind because they were an extension of him.
During my lessons, esteemed musicians frequently called or arrived at his front door. Great conductors such as Szell, Dorati, or Solti routinely called for advice about a member of their orchestra or to inquire if he had anyone ready for an available position. Jake was so highly regarded that many of his students were placed in orchestra jobs without auditioning. I was always greatly honored and thankful to be in Jake's presence and to experience his gift of the joy of music in my life.
JAKE DID NOT HAVE JUST ONE LUNG! He had two lungs but they were not healthy, because he was a severe asthmatic for most of his life. Asthma reduced his vital lung capacity to that of a single healthy lung, about 2.5-3 liters for an average adult male. His lung capacity was further reduced to around two liters by the end of his playing career. The powerful amplification provided by his 6/4 York tuba helped compensate for his limited capacity.
Jake's physical limitations were a hindrance but never a handicap!
At times, Jake felt like there was an elephant was sitting on his chest. But that never distracted him from a powerful mental commitment to sound. Jake understood that his imaginative musical mind would always motivate his subconscious brain to create the complex motor function necessary to play, however, he envied tall brass players who had a large vital capacity.
Jake frequently exclaimed to me...
I wish I could transfer my brain to your body! SONG and WIND
I was one of the contributors to the book, authored by Brian Fredericksen, edited by John Taylor, and published by Windsong Press Limited, 1996. When SONG and WIND was ready for publication and printing, I mentioned to Brian that a powerful quotation summarized the book's most important content.
I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lip feels or how I feel.
IT'S 85% WIND AND 15% SONG.
Many musicians and educators are mistakenly under the impression that his emphasis in teaching was mostly on anatomy and the physiology of breathing (WIND). NO, THE REVERSE IS TRUE!
IT'S 85% SONG AND 15% WIND.
Jake was master of Song (musical awareness) which motivates Wind and all the other complex motor skills required to play.
In performing or teaching, Jake was always a musical artist singing the notes in his mind as he played them. Frequently, he sang aloud vocally along with his students. Interestingly, he rarely played the tuba for me in lessons. My best playing always occurred at the end of a lesson when he assigned new music to prepare for my next appointment. He asked me to sightread the assignment but he always sang along vocally as I played. My playing was always accurate and effortless, but I never completely understood why. I was puzzled because I could never perform at the same level when I left his home. Later, I realized that he was providing the Song that I needed to provide for myself.
The key to playing an instrument can be found in speech. The lips can become vocal chords.
Jake was never interested in intellectual self awareness, self analysis, or even much awareness of an instrument.
I want you to have the mind of a child. Paralysis by Analysis
My best work with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra always occurred when I sat next to Jake or bass
trombonist, Edward Kleinhammer. They provided a powerful musical awareness (Song) for me.
I simply opened my ears and came along for a joyous and effortless ride.
I am ordering products (musical sounds) not mechanical maneuvers.
Jake's message regarding Wind is very simple. Inhale large breaths and renew them often. Avoid playing past the last 33% of vital capacity because it becomes increasingly more difficult to expel air past 50% of capacity. The last 1/3 of capacity is mostly ineffective when playing a wind instrument. The uncomfortable stress of trying to expel air to empty distracts the mind from musical awareness and can lead to respiratory malfunction.
We must allow the demands of the music to be the primary influence of breathing, fingering, embouchure, or anything else!
We must not learn an instrument to play music. We must learn music to play an instrument.
THE STUDY OF ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY
Jake wanted to learn how to cope with the physical limitations resulting from asthma, so he extensively studied physiology and anatomy. His various devices, anatomical charts and vast library of medical texts and journals are now located in an archive at DePaul University in Chicago. Jake's studies eventually became of such great interest that he decided to incorporate his insights into his teaching.
VISUAL AWARENESS TO ENHANCE AUDITORY AWARENESS
Jake used visual devises to provide enhanced input to the brain. Their purpose was to help motivate the complex motor (muscular) function required to play. Some devices were mechanical like a common hospital inspirometer that encouraged deep inhalation. Others were electronic, such as an oscilloscope that provided a visual picture of precise articulation. Jake understood that 30% of the brain is dedicated to processing sight. But he utilized visual awareness only to enhance but not substitute for auditory awareness. Jake always emphasized that we must play by sound to motivate output from the brain. Sensors motivate input to the brain.
MOTOR FUNCTION vs SENSORY AWARENESS
We cannot create accomplishment through sensory systems. It can only occur through motor systems.
The same area of the brain involved in sending messages is the same area that receives them. We can be very effective at sending or receiving messages but not both at the same time.
It's amazing what the chops can do if the (analytical) mind is not allowed to interfere.
MIND vs METAL
Jake understood that if a musician is motivating sensory input by analyzing how they feel or what they were doing mechanically, the motor function necessary to create accomplishment is greatly inhibited. Levels of physical paralysis can occur, but also emotional maladies such as fear, anxiety, self doubt and even physical pain can result. If these maladies are conditioned to occur simultaneously, total paralysis can result.
If such a dysfunctional a state of mind persists for an extended time, the resulting symptoms can become powerfully conditioned to any physical object. The mental and physical dysfunction gradually becomes motivated by the presence of the object (instrument) in the hands.
The Conditioned Reflex experiment of Ivan Pavlov revealed that the sound of a bell could condition a dog to salivate in response to sound rather than seeing and smelling food.
The instrument can also be a stimulus motivating effective function. It depends on whether the long term conditioning is positive (functional) or negative (paralyzing).
Even the most positive analytical thought is still negative.
Feel and Fail are four letter words to a brass player.
SELF ANALYSIS, SELF AWARENESS AND THE MINDLESS TUBE
I frequently work with students away from their instrument to disengage its paralyzing influence.
Although Jake used devices and exercises to encourage the large inhalation of quick large breaths,
he also used them to distract from paralyzing self awareness. At times. he instructed a student to walk or march around the room, stand on one leg or squat. The disconnect from the paralyzing influence of instrument was always immediate and powerful, but it was always short lived. However, Jake had another form of distraction that was more effective and long lasting.
MUSICAL AWARENESS AND COMMITTMENT!
PICTURES OF THE MIND (Creative Visualization)
It's not what you sound like that matters. What matters is knowing what you want to sound like. If you want to become an accomplished musician, you should imagine yourself becoming so.
TRUMPETS AND TUBAS ARE JUST MINDLESS TUBES.
Jake liked to demonstrate that a mindless tube is not the real instrument. He imagined that he was playing a trumpet when he had his enormous 6/4 York tuba in his hands. Jake could play his tuba in the middle and upper registers of the trumpet with the same ease and character of sound. Although the mindless brass tube was pitched two octaves lower and three times the length!
We were warming up in the basement locker room of Orchestra Hall for a Friday afternoon performance of The Rite of Spring with Solti and the CSO. Jake sat in front of his locker and I sat about ten feet away facing him. I was stunned when he effortlessly began to play his tuba as if it was a trumpet. It sounded like a trumpet! As I watched and listened, a powerful auditory and visual impression of the experience was deeply implanted in my mind. The powerful picture remained in my conscious thoughts the rest of the afternoon.
Later, I returned to Orchestra Hall for a rehearsal of The Civic Orchestra. I decided to sit in the exact location where I had observed Jake earlier. In my mind, I could see and hear him exactly as I did earlier. Suddenly, I knew that I could reproduce what he demonstrated. It was an exciting but somewhat frightening experience. I didn't understand how my playing could be transformed to such a new level so quickly and powerfully.
I was never able to recreate that moment again. I didn't understand that the VISION was more important than playing the tuba.
SILENCE INTO SOUND
Don't overlook the first note of passage because the notes that follow will be played at the same level of awareness and commitment.
SINGING AND BUZZING
I NEVER EVEN CONSIDERED THE EMBOUCHURE.
We don't need to study vocal chords or lips to produce a beautiful sound. We only need to study the sound.
Paralysis by Analysis
Think sound not mechanics.
Sound motivates function.
THE BEAUTIFUL SINGER
Jake had a beautiful singing voice and was also a master of solfeggio, which he developed at Curtis. Frequently, he added unrelated words to musical phrases. Vocalists have an great advantage because awareness of words and pitch originate from the same area of the brain.
As an adolescent, Jake was hospitalized for extended periods to treat his asthma. He had no instrument but he always had a mouthpiece. He remarked that he always played better when he left the hospital than before he went in. He also noticed that playing the mouthpiece and tuba was an effective therapeutic treatment for his asthma. Jake always felt better after a concert than before.
Adolph Herseth, myself, and many others enthusiastically encourage mouthpiece playing to “sing from the lips”. Mouthpiece playing (buzzing) is also a powerful tool to disengage from the paralyzing influence of an instrument. For amplification, Jake sometimes played his mouthpiece inserted into a short plastic tube with a funnel. The British hornist, Dennis Brain, recorded and performed the Horn Concertos of Mozart with his mouthpiece placed in a garden hose with a funnel at the end.
Jake also practiced with a mouthpiece that had most of the bowl removed. There was just enough metal remaining to connect the rim to the stem which went into the leadpipe of his tuba. He also buzzed with just the mouthpiece rim that he conveniently kept in his shirt pocket. In clinics he enjoyed demonstrating the beautiful sound he could produce by just playing on the mouthpiece rim.
Mouthpiece buzzing is also a powerful tool that encourages a more resonant tone. The subconscious mind (reactive) will motivate the body to compensate for the reduced amplification of playing without the instrument, however, the producer must always be highly aware of the sound in his or her mind before it can be realized mechanically by the body for an audience to hear. The BERP and it's knockoffs (buzz aid, etc.) are useful devices that allow a brass player to play their mouthpiece and finger or move a slide simultaneously
Jake never prioritized physical execution over musical awareness and mental commitment. He always transcended playing the instrument itself which he considered to be of lessor importance than what it should sound like. Jake was always motivated to influence the instrument with sound rather than allow the instrument to distract him from the sound.
He always enjoyed playing fine instruments, such as his great York tuba, like everyone else. But Jake sounded the same playing any instrument. Jake was the real instrument, not the mindless brass tube in his hands.
I fill the instrument with sound because it has none of its own.
Jake and I were warming up in the basement locker room of Orchestra Hall prior to performing Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss. Jake asked, “Do you want to play the York tuba?” Unfortunately, I was only allowed to play it for a few seconds. Too bad because it was a joy ride!
Give it back because I don't want you to get used to it!
I knew Jake for almost four decades. Only his personal lawyer studied with him for a longer time. As his assistant in the CSO and colleague teaching at Northwestern University, we worked together on the stage and in a studio. In later years, many of his former students and I noticed a gradual evolution in the emphasis of his teaching.
SONG vs WIND
Jake's teaching was somewhat analytical at times as he evaluated what a student was doing correctly or incorrectly mechanically, however, he always stressed the importance of having a musical mind that is powerfully committed to sound and communicating it to an audience. He was never an analytical teacher when an instrument was in his hands. He also cautioned his students to avoid paralyzing self analysis and awareness while playing.
When you are on the stage, always be a musician. Never be a teacher listening in the audience.
You really don't need to know much about anatomy to play an instrument. But you do need to know a lot about the music you want your audience to hear. You can be as intellectual about your understanding of the music as you want, but you must not be intellectual about how to produce it.
I don't care if everything you are doing is wrong (mechanically) if it sounds good.
(It can't be wrong if it sounds good!)
Go for the product (musical sound).
Jake was a master illusionist who fooled audiences into thinking that it took great strength to play his enormous tuba. It took great strength to carry and hold but not to play. His great strength was in his mind. It was not necessary to have great physical strength in his body.
Strength is your enemy, weakness is your friend.
Jake's sound was so powerful that at times it seemed to lift the entire Chicago Symphony Orchestra off the stage. Because of his reduced lung capacity, he couldn't sustain a loud or low frequency sound very long. His inhalations were always perfectly disguised by masterful phrasing. He was aware that the strong brass players around him would help create an illusion of immense sustaining power. Jake knew precisely when to contribute his sound to achieve maximum impact.
It was brilliance not deception!
I have spent my entire career comprehending and developing the musical mind of Arnold Jacobs. Every day I encourage others to also achieve his extraordinary level of imaginative musical awareness, commitment, and execution.
WE MUST GIVE DOMINANCE TO THE MUSIC, NOT THE INSTRUMENT. AN INSTRUMENT GIVES A READOUT OF THE THOUGHTS.
THERE ARE TWO INSTRUMENTS. ONE IN THE HANDS AND ONE IN THE HEAD. THE INSTRUMENT IN THE HANDS IS A MIRROR REFLECTING THE ONE IN THE HEAD.
I SING THE NOTES IN MY HEAD AS I PLAY THEM. IT DOESN'T MATTER HOW MY LIP FEELS OR HOW I FEEL.
LESSONS FROM THE STAGE
Transcending the instrument.
I played the second tuba part when the CSO performed the Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique on an Eastern tour in 1971. At The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., Jake was very ill with a severe cold and fever. He didn't have the strength to carry his tuba to the stage so I brought it to his chair. The low brass tacit the first three movements so we always enjoy listening. While the orchestra was performing the first three movements, I noticed Jake coughing, perspiring, wheezing, and inhaling his asthma medication deeply. As the time came to play the fourth movement, I I prepared to play the first part, which enters at the beginning of the movement.
I was ready to play but my assistance was not required!
Jake played so powerfully and accurately that he sounded like Arnold Jacobs when he was 25 years old! Neither his illness, weakened body or the mindless tube in his hands prevented him from communicating a powerful story to the audience. I was stunned but I was also amused. How could I doubt that he would be able to do it?
There was never any doubt in his mind!
Singing and playing.
There was another amazing experience playing the second tuba part to Deserts by Edgar Varese. This story became an urban legend after I first wrote about it in the book, SONG and WIND. I have heard many different versions buzzing around, but this is the authentic legendary tale.
The first tuba part has a treacherous single note that has caused great embarrassment and frustration for
many fine tuba players and everyone else who has had the misfortune to hear it. The single note is a
very exposed Gb above high C that must be played alone, very softly, and after a long pause..
I was glad it was in the first part rather than mine. When it doesn't go well for the first player (often!), conductors may ask the second tuba to play it. Unfortunately, that option is rarely successful unless they get lucky. The great fortune never extends to the concert!
Erich Leinsdorf was the guest conductor when an extraordinary event occurred during the first rehearsal. As the time approached to play the high Gb, I could hear Jake softly singing it vocally in falsetto into his mouthpiece. At the moment when it occurs in the score, he sang the note a little louder as he pressed the appropriate valve on his tuba. It sounded perfect! The orchestra thunderously pounded the floor with their feet and applauded. Leinsdorf immediately stopped the rehearsal and shouted, “Bravo Mr. Jacobs!”. Jake and I were the only two people on the stage who knew he sang the note with his vocal chords rather than playing it with his lips! With his familiar smile and a twinkle in his eye, he turned to me and said...
My personal integrity will not allow me to do that in performance.
We rehearsed several more times and there were six public performances. He played the note perfectly each time, but I always first heard him softly singing the note vocally just before playing it with his lips.
MORE PRICELESS LESSONS FROM THE MASTER!
Thank you again Arnold from all of us whose lives have changed immeasurably because of your profound influence. And thank you to every musician and teacher who has shared your joy of music with others.
In August, 1998, my final words spoken to Jake were a promise.
“Your work will live on through your students.”
IT'S JUST THE SINGING!
Roger Rocco April 30, 2021
Monday, April 4, 2016
FEEL and FAIL are four letter words to a brass player.
THE OBJECT IN YOUR HANDS IS NOT THE REAL INSTRUMENT. YOU ARE THE REAL INSTRUMENT. THE MUSIC TELLS US EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW. WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO RECEIVE IT'S POWERFUL MESSAGE.
There are two methods to motivate the complex mechanics required to create musical sounds with an instrument. However, only one method is effective while the other is very dysfunctional.
If we don't motivate the subconscious mind to create mechanical function based on a powerful conscious awareness of sound, the subconscious will attempt to create sound awareness by feel. Essentially making the embouchure function like ears.
That's like trying to drain an ocean with a straw or heading the wrong way down a one way street.
THE MUSICAL MIND IS MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT OF CREATING MUSIC. NEITHER LIPS, TONGUE, LUNGS, FINGERS, OR THE MINDLESS BRASS TUBE IN THE HANDS ARE CAPABLE OF CREATING A SINGLE NOTE WITHOUT THE INFLUENCE OF AN IMAGINATIVE MIND COMMITTED TO ONLY THE MUSIC.
THE SUBCONSCIOUS (REACTIVE MIND) WILL RESPOND FAITHFULLY AND POWERFULLY TO THE CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF SOUND IF THE AWARENESS IS VIVID AND POWERFUL. RESPONSE WILL ALWAYS EQUAL AWARENESS IF THERE IS NO INTELLECTUAL INTERFERENCE.
There are two instruments. One in the hands and one in the head. The instrument in the hands is a mirror reflecting the one in the head.
I always believe that it is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.
I sing (think) the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lips feels or how I feel.
THE THINK SYSTEM from THE MUSIC MAN
You only have to think the tune to have it come out perfectly clear.
There is nothing wrong with your chops (tongue, lungs, hands). Your mind is messing them up.
Paralysis by Analysis.
Mind vs. Metal
I don't care much about TUBAS because they don't have a brain.
I try to play it (Mozart Clarinet Concerto) from a vocal perspective, like an opera singer. The piece has little to do with the clarinet at all!
THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD.
AWARENESS OF MUSIC
MENTAL COMMITMENT TO AWARENESS OF MUSIC
EXECUTION OF MENTAL COMMITMENT TO MUSIC
You cannot have a powerful musical commitment to a low level of musical awareness.
You cannot learn to speak language without first hearing the sound of words. And you cannot create musical sounds with an instrument or vocally without first having a vivid awareness of the sound in the imaginative mind. Creating musical sound is not a mindless process.
Most people struggle to develop their mastery of the instrument in their hands. The key to developing instrumental skills is to develop musical skills first.
H. A. Vandercook
Keep it simple.
If you can sing it, you can play it.
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN SOUND AWARENESS AND FEEL AWARENESS.
Our ability to detect sound externally with ears and internally in the mind is very powerful. But the ability to detect specific sounds using the sense of feel is very weak. Yes, we can feel sound vibrations but it is not possible to detect frequency by touch. People without the ability to hear cannot substitute their hands for their deaf ears.
THE MYTH OF BEETHOVEN'S EARS
For many years, children were taught that Beethoven was able to hear the sound of his piano by placing his head on the sound board to feel the vibrations. How did Beethoven retain a powerful awareness of sound though his ears failed to function? Although his sound awareness was no longer available externally, it was still powerful internally in his mind and it became even more so in time. It is said that the 9th Symphony is the greatest music he ever composed but Beethoven never heard a single note with his ears. It obviously didn't matter.
LIPS INTO EARS
When the brass player's conscious auditory awareness of frequency is vague or absent, the subconscious mind reacts by trying to create pitch awareness by detecting the notes by feel in the lips. Woodwind players frequently attempt to detect the notes by feel in their hands. Since the lips and fingers are unable to detect frequency by touch, no information such is communicated to the brain. Without conscious auditory awareness or feel awareness the subconscious mind has no information with witch to respond so there is no response. PARALYSIS!!!
SYMPTOMS vs. CAUSE
There are two questions I always ask of those attending my clinics or masterclasses. I have asked these questions hundreds of times of all age groups and performance levels worldwide.
1. Have any of you ever been told you have air or embouchure problems?
2. Has anyone ever wanted to throw their instrument through a brick wall?
The response is always 100% affirmative.
Most people consciously to correct their physical symptoms of malfunction. But they don't understand what is motivating the symptoms which are directed by the subconscious.
WE CANNOT SPEND OUR MUSICAL LIVES REACTING TO PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS OF FAILURE.
WE MUST REACT TO WHAT IS CAUSING THEM. THE LACK OF MENTAL COMMITTMENT TO THE MUSIC.
Think sound not mechanics.
Sound motivates function.
The music tells us everything we need to know.
The key to playing an instrument can be found in speech.
We cannot motivate motor function (output) through sensory awareness (input).
We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned to speak.
The worldwide epidemic of FOCAL DYSTONIA is not some perilous virus or bacteria. The paralysis is the result of misdirection (feel vs. sound) of the conscious mind which is powerfully influenced and reinforced by the mindless instrument.
You cannot sit on the stage and in the audience at the same time.
My job is strikingly simple. Those who come to me for help have drifted away from a vivid conscious awareness of the music to a vague conscious awareness of how their playing feels, mechanics, or the instrument. Usually it's all three. Where's the music? NOWHERE!!!
I HELP THEM COME BACK TO THE MUSIC. IT'S THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS.
When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece), Transfer the singing and buzzing to the trumpet (instrument).
THE POWER OF SINGING
Arnold Jacobs was a master solfege artist. The result of his high conscious level of musical awareness was a powerful subconscious commitment to the execution of sound. It didn't matter what instrument was in his hands. In addition to the tuba, he played trumpet, trombone, and string bass very well.
SING (3x), BUZZ (3x), PLAY (3x) until the conscious commitment to the music is powerful enough to dominate the paralyzing influence of the instrument.
NOTHING MATTERS BUT THE CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF AND MENTAL COMMITTMENT TO THE MUSIC. EVERYTHING ELSE IS A DISTRACTION FROM THE MUSIC THAT INEVITABLY LEADS TO PARALYSIS.
WE MUSIC HAVE A SIMPLISTIC INTELLECTUAL APPROACH TO MOTIVATING THE COMPLEX SUBCONSCIOUS MECHANICAL SKILLS REQUIRED TO PLAY AN INSTRUMENT.
WHEN WE ATTEMPT TO SUBSTITUE THE CONSCIOUS INTELLECTUAL MIND FOR THE SUBCONSCIOUS REACTIVE MIND, WE ARE CHOOSING WEAKNESS OVER STRENGTH.
SELF CONFIDENCE IS THE RESULT OF AN EXPECTATION OF SUCCESS, WHICH CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY ESTABLISHING A HISTORY OF SUCCESS. SELF DOUBT IS A SELF INFLICTED WOUND.
THE GOAL OF PERFECT MASTERY OF AN INSTRUMENT NEVER LEADS TO PERFECTION. THE GOAL OF PERFECT MASTERY OF MUSICAL AWARENESS WILL ALLOW US TO COME CLOSE TO MASTERING THE INSTRUMENT.
PURE (TECHNICAL) PERFECTION IS UNOBTAINABLE.
I WANT YOU TO HAVE THE MIND OF A CHILD.
GO FOR THE PRODUCT (SOUND).
Much to my dismay, paralyzing air and embouchure analysis persists in the educational system worldwide. It dominates all levels of wind instrument pedagogy from the fourth grade beginner to the seasoned professionals.
Musical awareness (sound) should be dominant but it is overwhelmed
by self analysis and self awareness. The educators argue that musical awareness cannot be communicated to a fourth grader and that complex mechanical awareness is an appropriate substitute. The opposite is true. We must communicate musical awareness without the paralyzing mechanical distraction. We don't need breathing bags or tubes, embouchure magnifying mirrors, cameras, or visualizers.
THE STUDENTS MUST HAVE A POWERFUL AWARENESS OF THE SOUND THEY WANT TO PRODUCE. IT IS THE JOB OF THE MUSIC TEACHER TO COMMUNICATE THAT AWARENESS. THE SUBCONSCIOUS WILL RESPOND POWERFULLY JUST AS IT DOES FOR ALL AWARENESSES WE EXPERIENCE EVERY MOMENT OF OUR LIVES. A CHILD IS TAUGHT TO SPEAK BY COMMUNICATING THE SOUND OF LANGUAGE AND THEY LEARN TO WALK BY OBSERVING OTHER WALK.
MUSICAL AWARENESS IS A POWERFUL SUBCONSCIOUS MOTIVATOR OF PHYSICAL MECHANICS BUT CONSCIOUS MECHANICAL ANALYSIS IS A VERY WEAK MOTIVATOR OF MUSIC.
THERE CAN BE NO FUNCTION WHEN WE SUBSTITUTE WEAKNESS FOR STRENGTH.
P. S. September 20, 2016 is the 50th anniversary of the first time, as a 17 years old high school senior, I played for Mr. Jacobs. That day not only changed my life but it has also impacted the lives of countless others who I have worked with since. We are eternally grateful for what you have given us with your generosity and wisdom as a teacher and your role model as a great musician.
Thanks Jake! You were a unique gift to us all!
Sunday, February 22, 2015
THE EPIDEMIC OF FOCAL DYSTONIA
No greatness can be achieved if the trumpeter is paralyzed by fear.
If a trumpeter is fearful when they play, they should consider another line of work.
MENTAL COMMITMENT TO MUSIC = PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT TO CREATE IT.
WHEN A MUSICIAN BECOMES PARALYZED (FD), IT IS BECAUSE THEY HAVE LOST THEIR MENTAL COMMITTMENT TO THE MUSIC. WHAT FOLLOWS IS THE LOSS OF THEIR PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT TO CREATE IT. WHEN THEY TRY TO CREATE A PHYSICAL COMMITTMENT BY CONSCIOUSLY ANALYZING THEIR PLAYING MECHANICS, FAILURE IS THE ONLY OUTCOME. THE PHYSICAL MECHANICS ARE MUCH TOO COMPLEX FOR THE INTELLECTUAL MIND TO COMPREHEND. WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO CONSCIOUSLY COMMIT TO THE MUSIC RATHER THAN HOW TO PRODUCE IT. WHEN WE DO, WE ACCESS THE POWER OF THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND RATHER THAN BYPASS IT. AS ARNOLD JACOBS TELLS US,
PLAYING WILL BE A JOY
FEAR is a subconscious state of mind that seemingly protects us from an expectation of physical or emotional harm by motivating paralysis or action. We cannot consciously control fear but we can control how we respond to it. If we respond by removing the conditions that are motivating it, the influence of fear will subside. ATTEMPTING TO ELIMINATE FEAR WITHOUT FIRST REMOVING THE MOTIVATION WILL ONLY INCREASE ITS PARALYZING INFLUENCE.
COURAGE is not the absence of fear. It is the will to function in spite of it.
DISCIPLINE is the will to do whatever is necessary to accomplish a goal.
Most people never realize their goals because they are paralyzed by their fear of failure.
RECOVERY from Focal Dystonia is a lifelong process that requires courage, discipline, and the great power of persistence.
We cannot consciously control our fear because it motivated by the subconscious in anticipation of failure or danger. However, we can control what is motivating our fear by consciously removing what is causing it.
Fear of failure is the result of an expectation of failure which results from a history of failure. An expectation of success can only result from creating a history of success. In time, all expectations, positive or negative, become powerfully associated with and reinforced by the instrument we are holding.
When a history of failure has developed over an extended period of time, the subconscious mind begins to interpret the instrument as the source of emotional pain and physical discomfort. However, the protective response of the subconscious is not protective. It sabotages us by motivating paralysis, greater pain and emotional suffering.
THE MUSIC MAN, MEREDITH WILLSON
WE USE THE THINK SYSTEM HERE! YOU ONLY NEED TO THINK THE TUNE TO HAVE IT COME OUT PERFECTLY CLEAR.
THERE IS NO REASON FOR YOUR SUCCESS OR FAILURE OTHER THAN YOUR STATE OF MIND!
The symptoms of failure are physical but they are the result of failure in the mind. We cannot correct failure in the mind by first trying to correct physical failure. We must have the courage to first commit mentally to the music we want to produce. 0nly then can we be free of the paralyzing influence of the mindless instrument in our hands instrument.
The precise subconscious physical motor skills necessary to create the music with an instrument will powerfully follow the direction of the powerful conscious musical awareness. This beautiful symbiotic relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind is nothing new in our lives. It allows us to function with ease in the external environment every moment we are awake.
If you want to make a more powerful physical commitment to playing mechanics, you must first make a more powerful mental commitment to the sound you want to produce. If you try to create physical function without musical awareness, dysfunction is the only possible result.
Mind vs. Metal (or tissue)
SOUND MOTIVATES FUNCTION!!
IT'S JUST THE SINGING!!!
THE STRADIVARIUS VIOLIN IN THE HANDS OF ITZHAK PERMAN, THE AMATI CELLO IN THE HANDS OF YO YO MA, THE YAMAHA TUBA IN THE HANDS OF SERGIO CAROLINO, AND THE STEINWAY PIANO AT THE HANDS OF LANG LANG ARE LIFELESS, MINDLESS OBJECTS UNTIL THEY REFLECT THE GREAT MUSICAL MINDS OF THE MUSICIANS PLAYING THEM. THE MOST IMPORTANT INSTRUMENT IS NOT THE ONE IN THE HANDS. IT IS THE ONE BETWEEN THE EARS!
THE AWARENESS ON AN INSTRUMENT IS THE HANDS IS OF LITTLE IMPORTANCE COMPARED TO THE AWARENESS OF THE MUSIC IN THE MIND.
WE SHOULD NOT SEARCH FOR SOUND INSIDE THE INSTRUMENT BECAUSE NO SOUND EXISTS UNTIL IT IS CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE AND SENT INTO THE LEADPIPE.
MEANINGLESS TERMS LIKE FAT AIR, FAST AIR, WARM AIR, OR AIR FLOW ARE DISFUNCTIONAL BECAUSE THE WIND PLAYER HAS VERY LITTLE CONSCIOUS AWARENESS OF AIR WHILE PLAYING. HOWEVER, THE WIND PLAYER CAN HAVE GREAT AWARENESS OF SOUND WHILE PLAYING. FUNCTIONAL TERMS ARE RESONANT SOUND, HEAVY SOUND, LIGHT SOUND, AND SOFT OR LOUD SOUND, I HAVE FOUND THAT TERMS LIKE DARK AND BRIGHT SOUND ARE MUCH TOO VAGUE TO REALIZE UNLESS THEY ARE A DIRECT IMMITATION OF SOME OTHER SOURCE.
A BRASS INSTRUMENT IS JUST A MINDLESS LENGTH OF TUBING AND A CONE AT THE END OF A CUP MOUTHPIECE. NEITHER THE MOUTHPIECE OR TUBE HAS MUSICAL SOUND OR INTELLIGENCE OF ITS OWN. THE TUBE ALREADY HAS A STATIONARY COLUMN OF AIR THAT MUST BE SET INTO VIBRATION WITH SPECIFIC FREQUENCIES OF SOUND THAT ARE CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE. THERE IS VERY LITTLE AIR FLOW SO IT IS NOT NECESSARY TO DISTRACT OURSELVES BY TRYING TO CREATE MOTION OF AIR. TERMS SUCH AS FAST AIR, WARM AIR, FAT AIR, AND FLOWING AIR ARE PARALYZING DISTRACTIONS FROM THE AWARENESS OF SOUND.
IMAGINATIVE MUSICAL SOUND ORIGINATES AS CONSCIOUS AWARENESS IN THE MIND. IF WE DO NOT INTERFERE WITH PARALYZING INTELLECTUAL ANALYSIS, THE SUBCONSCIOUS MIND WILL MOTIVATE THE COMPLEX PHYSICAL MECHANICS NECESSARY TO PRODUCE THE SOUND IN THE MOUTHPIECE. THE TUBE AND CONE AT THE END OF THE MOUTHPIECE CAN AMPLIFY AND COLOR THE SOUND BUT IT CANNOT CREATE IT!
EMBOUCHURE ANALYSIS IS ALSO AN UNNECESSARY PARALYZING DISTRACTION FROM THE SOUND. IT IS THE AWARENESS OF SOUND THAT MOTIVATES THE EMBOUCHURE, AIR, TONGUE, AND FINGERS, NOT VISA VERSA.
SOUND MOTIVATES FUNCTION.
THE OBJECT IN THE MUSICIAN'S HANDS IS NOT THE REAL INSTRUMENT. THE MUSICIAN HOLDING THE OBJECT IS THE REAL INSTRUMENT.
IT'S NOT ABOUT SELF AWARENESS. IT'S ONLY ABOUT MUSICAL AWARENESS.
WE MUST FIRST ESTABISH A POWERFUL MENTAL AWARENESS OF SOUND BEFORE THERE CAN BE A POWERFUL PHYSICAL COMMITMENT TO CREATE IT.
Arnold (Jake) Jacobs
I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn't matter how my lip feels or how I feel.
Adolph (Bud) Herseth
Transfer the singing (mental) and buzzing (mouthpiece) to the trumpet (instrument).
Think sound not mechanics.
Even the most posiive technical thought is still negative.
THE ANALOGY OF THE GENERATOR, LIGHT BULB, AND MIRROR
We are generators of sound that originates in the conscious imagination and is created in the brass mouthpiece like light in a bulb. The mindless tubing with valves or a slide is only a mirror that receives and reflects sound but it cannot produce it. The real instrument is not the one you are holding. It's the cup on your chops where sound is created. I no longer play a tuba. I play a mouthpiece with a tuba or sometimes a length of tubing with a funnel on the end. It doesn't matter where the mouthpiece is located as long as I'm committed to producing the sound I want. My subconscious mind will faithfully and powerfully respond to my conscious awareness of the sound as long as I don't interfere with paralyzing self analysis and self awareness.
Most of my current teaching involves working with professional and advanced non-professional musicians who have lost their ability to function mechanically to produce musical sounds with an instrument in their hands. All were once successful performers but are now perplexed by the symptoms of paralysis and discomfort that have crept into their playing. I’m always the last person on the list of people they first consult for help.
Before contacting me, they usually have been deteriorating for several years and have suffered physical discomfort and great emotional pain. Many are on the verge of losing their playing or teaching jobs and are facing the end of their career.
Tragically, many very successful careers are lost because the lack of understanding of what is going on, why it is happening, and not knowing to do about it. Medically prescribed injections are not the answer because there is nothing physically wrong with the body parts involved in playing an instrument. They most often complain about having problems with malfunction of air, embouchure, or tongue. Sometimes, they are experiencing uncontrolled trembling, pain in their throat, jaw, hands or fingers.
I recall the first lesson of an excellent principal trumpeter who experiencing paralysis. When I open the door to my home, his first words were, “Roger, I have bad news. The doctor just told me there is nothing wrong with my chops.” I replied, “That’s the good news” Virtually everyone who comes for help has applied every pedagogical methodology they know without success. Most often it involves air/embouchure or tonguing analysis. With woodwind players, it frequently involves awareness and analysis hands and fingers. Frequently, the medical community is consulted but since the paralysis and pain is not the result of a medical condition, there never is a positive outcome. The doctors usually are stumped and inform them that their careers are over and they should find something else to do.
Unfortunately, many doctors think that Focal Dystonia is the result of too much muscular repetition over too much time. If that were true, our hearts would develop the same symptoms.
Although some people do develop an arrhythmia of their heart as they age, it’s usually the result of inadequate use rather than overuse.
My personal process of recovery has been ongoing for over forty years. That journey has given me a great opportunity to understand the condition, and to help myself and many others.
Contrary to the misinformed advice that is being offered by the medical and educational communities, there is a solution for recovery. Focal Dystonia, whose primary symptom is paralysis, is a condition with an excellent possibility for recovery.
Focal Dystonia is technically defined as the involuntary firing of muscle tissues. For instrumental musicians that may be a symptom but most often it’s paralysis of the embouchure, breath, tongue, or fingers. The paralysis makes it impossible to create and send sound to the instrument.
The usual response is to treat the symptoms of paralysis by making a conscious effort to restore air/embouchure function. However, since the malfunction is being motivated by the subconscious, we cannot treat symptoms of paralysis at the conscious level of awareness. We must understand what is motivating the subconscious to cause paralysis.
The paralysis of Focal Dystonia is always motivated at the subconscious by the players expectation of failure, emotional pain, and physical discomfort. Recovery begins with the process of altering the expectation of failure to and expectation of success. That can only occur when the player creates a new history of success. The process is simple but requires determination, discipline, and persistence.
IF YOU DON'T BECOME THE MASTER OF THE MUSIC, THE MINDLESS BRASS TUBING IN YOUR HANDS WILL BECOME THE MASTER MOTIVATOR OF YOUR PARALYSIS.
THE FEEL GOOD METHOD DOES NOT FEEL GOOD!
FEELING GOOD WHEN YOU PLAY CAN ONLY OCCUR AS A BY-PRODUCT OF PERFORMING WITH A RESONANT SOUND. YOU CANNOT MOTIVATE EFFECTIVE PERFORMANCE BY ATTEMPTING TO FEEL GOOD FIRST.
SOUND MOTIVATES SUBCONSCIOUS FUNCTION. CONSCIOUS INTELLECTUAL AWARENESS PREVENTS TONE PRODUCTION BECAUSE THE PROCESS IS INCREDABLY COMPLEX AND WE DO NOT HAVE THE INTELLECTUAL CAPACITY TO EXECUTE THE MECHANICS. IF LIFE SUPPORT BECAME AN INTELLECTUAL ENDEVOR, DEATH WOULD BE THE IMMEDIATE RESULT.
The subconscious is motivating fear, pain, and paralysis in response to an expectation of failure, which is based on a recent history of failure.
To eliminate the symptoms, you must eliminate what is motivating them. An expectation of success, based on creating a new history of success, is the medicine I prescribe to everyone.
Keep it simple.
If you can sing it, you can play it.
When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece).
Transfer the singing and buzzing to the trumpet (instrument).
SING BUZZ PLAY
Once a new history and expectation of success has been established away from the instrument and has been transferred to the instrument, it will no longer have a paralyzing influence on buzzing the sound created in the mouthpiece. The instrument will freely allow the buzzing to be motivated by consciously singing the music mentally while playing the mouthpiece inside the instrument and ultimately...
IT'S JUST THE SINGING!
FROM SILENCE TO SOUND
VERY OFTEN, THE FIRST SYMPTOM OF FOCAL DYSTONIA IS THE INABILITY TO PRODUCE A STARTING NOTE.
There’s nothing wrong with your chops (breath, tongue, fingers). Your mind is messing them up.
Paralysis by Analysis
The primary cause is the gradual development of a history and expectation of failure triggers a paralyzing protective mechanism in the subconscious mind. In time the expectation of failure and impending doom becomes a conditioned reflex (Pavlov) associated with and reinforced by the instrument.
We become sabotaged by our subconscious because we always realize our expectations no matter if they are positive or negative.
My job is very simple. The musicians who come to me for help have drifted away from their awareness and commitment to the music into self awareness and self analysis. I only need to redirect them back to a powerful awareness and commitment to the musical sounds they want to produce.
There are many possible conditions of playing that lead to a paralyzing relationship with the instrument. I refer to the paralyzing relationship as The Hot Stove Syndrome. This condition always results from experiencing too much failure over an extended period of time. I rarely see the syndrome in very young and experienced musicians because there has not been enough time for it to develop. However, I frequently notice it in high school level musicians who have been playing for several years and are influenced by analytical teachers or their analytical perfectionist personalities.
THE IMPERFECT PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.
The perfectionists personality is never satisfied about anything they accomplish with an instrument in their hands. Gradually, the subconscious mind considers the instrument to be the cause of emotional dissatisfaction.
The subconscious or reactive mind seeks to protect us from emotional and physical harm by inducing fear, action, or paralysis. When a history of failure has developed with an instrument in the hands, the subconscious mind associates the resulting emotional pain and physical discomfort with the object.
A great conflict develops between the subconscious reactive mind, which wants the player to remove the instrument from the hands, and the conscious will, which is overriding by continuing to hold it. Unfortunately, the subconscious mind has powerful control over the inner universe of our bodies, so it reacts by causing paralysis of the mechanics of playing.
COMMON CONDITIONS OF PLAYING THAT LEAD TO THE PARALYSIS OF FD.
1. Focus on self awareness, self analysis, or the instrument.
2. Influence of low level performance either self motivated or externally motivated.
3. Fear of failure and self doubt.
4. Not understand the mechanism of success.
We cannot master playing an instrument without mastering our awareness and understanding of the music first. That is like trying to learn to speak without first becoming aware of the sound of words.
Sound Motivates Function
Music is an auditory art form not a mechanical one. We must emphasize sound rather than mechanics in our playing and teaching.
In our everyday lives, the mechanics of accomplishment are motivated by the accomplishment.
We don’t consciously think about how to pick up a glass and bring it to our mouth. We just do it
beautifully without paralyzing self awareness and self analysis.
The music tells us everything we need to know.
Sound is the criterion for how we do this and that.
Think sound not mechanics.
We can teach a child how to play an instrument the same way they learned how to speak.
THE ENDLESS PROCESS OF RECOVERY
Since the cause of malfunction is the result of drifting away from musical awareness into self awareness, recovery can only be achieved by re-establishing a powerful awareness of the sound we want to produce.
When encountering problems technically or musically, first sing (vocally) then buzz (mouthpiece). TRANSFER THE SINGING AND BUZZING TO THE TRUMPET.
Bud says nothing about air/embouchure analysis, tongue, or any other mechanics of playing.
It is best to be somewhat unconscious of our physical maneuvers but highly conscious of our musical goals.
RECOVERY PROCEDURES FOR BRASS PLAYERS.
In my personal playing and teaching, I emphasize external mouthpiece playing over internal mouthpiece playing to avoid the paralyzing influence of the instrument.
I have developed several alternate instruments (not toys!), that accept a mouthpiece, for the tuba.
NONE OF THESE ALTERNATE INSTRUMENTS HAS ANY PARALYZING INFLUENCE BECAUSE THEY HAVE ALWAYS FREELY ACCEPTED ANY SOUND I CREATE IN THE MOUTHPIECE.
Cone or Funnel
Leadpipe and Funnel
Extended Tube and Funnel
The BERP and the Arturo Sandoval Valve Section are also very useful tools to encourage singing and buzzing without the paralyzing influence of an instrument.
I notice there are many brass players who have a BERP attached to their leadpipe but unfortunately, it's nothing more than a Christmas decoration because it's used so little.
Mario Guarneri recommends using the BERP 50% of the time in practice sessions.
I play the BERP 100% of the time even when my mouthpiece is in the leadpipe rather than next to it. It doesn't matter where my mouthpiece is located no matter if I'm in my studio or on the stage.
If we don't transcend the instrument with a powerful awareness of sound, that originates in the conscious mind and is realized in the mouthpiece, the instrument will influence us by powerfully motivating paralysis, involuntary motor function, and discomfort.
The cone or funnel provides amplification for the buzzing which is an important factor in creating a resonant tone. The physical size of substitute instrument has a psychological influence on the fullness of the sound. I notice that I’m able to produce the most resonant tone buzzing into the valveless tuba. I have removed the valves from a large Boosey and Hawkes, Imperial Eb tuba. Even though the mouthpiece sound sent through the leadpipe, does not extend beyond the first valve casing, the tone sounds like it’s being amplified by the entire instrument.
I recommend 35-45 minutes of external buzzing daily (music not exercises before transferring the sound to the instrument. I enjoy buzzing along with everything I hear on my favorite recordings. All music should first be learned vocally and on the mouthpiece to avoid creating failure with the instrument.
I always prepare the music mentally before I realize it at the piano.
I gave up tuba playing long ago. Now, I play an 18 ft. mouthpiece with valves.
Play the mouthpiece inside the instrument, not the instrument.
The function of a teacher is to create opportunities for success. We must provide those opportunities for ourselves as well as others. I have learned more from my students than they have from me.
THE INSTRUMENT TRANSFER UTILIZING THE GOLDEN RATIO, 3:1
1. Sets of singing and buzzing three times, in any combination, before transferring to the instrument.
Repeat sets or once as needed until the transfer is successful.
2. Transfer the mental singing and buzzing to the instrument as if the instrument does not exist.
In 1976, I was forced to leave The Seattle Symphony prematurely, and return to Chicago, with my tail between my legs. I had become completely paralyzed and could not perform in the annual
Wagner Ring Cycle. For six weeks prior to the start of the Ring, I spent six weeks in Chicago trying to solve the mystery of what was happening. I desperately practiced 12-14 hours a day but returned to Seattle without even the slightest improvement.
It’s a three and a half day drive from Seattle to my home in Chicago, so I had a lot of time to think about what had happened. I kept a mouthpiece on the passenger seat and frequently played
Interstate Concertos and Symphonies while driving.
After a while, it occurred to me that my mouthpiece playing was totally free and that it had always been so. There was nothing wrong with the function of my chops, tongue, or air. I was very puzzled and intrigued by my enlightened realization.
I decided that when I arrived home, I would pretend the tuba did not exist when I placed the mouthpiece in the leadpipe of the instrument.
I WAS ABLE TO PLAY THE TUBA FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MONTHS!!!
In fact, I was not playing the tuba. I was playing the mouthpiece inside the tuba and it accepted the sound freely without causing me to become paralyzed. The tuba lost it’s influence because I had successfully transcended it’s paralyzing influence by freely producing precise musical sounds in the mouthpiece that could be accepted rather than rejected by the air column within the horn.
In all wind instruments, no sound is possible inside the tubing of the instrument until it’s first created in the mouthpiece, double reed, or head joint.
IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE SOUNDS FIRST CREATED IN THE MOUTHPIECE MUST BE SYMPATHETIC WITH THE FREQUENCIES THAT THE AIR COLUMN OF THE INSTRUMENT CAN ACCEPT OR THOSE FREQUENCIES WILL BE REJECTED BY THE INSTRUMENT.
TRANSCENDING THE INSTRUMENT
I suggest practicing with a variety of instruments and mouthpieces to reduce the impact of physical feedback. I find in my own practice, that with the change of equipment comes a renewed and elevated mental commitment to the music. Awareness of feel and the influence of the instrument is greatly diminished when I'm mentally committed to the music.
A friend advanced to the final audition for a principal position with a major American orchestra. Just before his audition, a major malfunction with his instrument made it impossible to play. He was forced to borrow an unfamiliar instrument and perform without preparation.
When he related the horror story, I told him it actually was a wonderful opportunity. He was challenged to a higher mental commitment to the music and won the position.
As a member of the French Army, trumpeter Maurice Andre was without access to an instrument for six months. However, he did have a mouthpiece so he practiced extensively without the trumpet. When he finally had access to his trumpet, he found that his tone production and general performance had elevated significantly.
As child Arnold Jacobs, spent significant time hospitalized for asthma. However, he practiced his mouthpiece while in the hospital. After being discharged, he always found that his playing would improve.
Jake first played a bugle in the Boy Scouts. Later, he progressed the trumpet and trombone which was the instrument he decided to settle on. He ended up on the tuba at the age of fifteen, only because his trombone was lost on the car trip from California to the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia where he was awarded a full scholarship. They didn't have a substitute trombone but there was a tuba he could play. He won the principal tuba position with the Boston Symphony three years later.
The different instruments and mouthpieces meant nothing to Jake because he was only committed to the music he wanted the audience to hear.
Since woodwind players don’t buzz music on their mouthpiece or reed, I ask them to sing vocally and simultaneously finger the instrument to raise their awareness of the music. String and percussion players have a great advantage because the can vocalize simultaneously as they play.
Glenn Gould stopped giving live performances because his vocalization was distracting to the audience. However, his voice could still be heard faintly on recordings. The same was true of the recordings of Maestro Arturo Toscanini.
It’s very important to understand that the mental singing of every note must occur simultaneously as the notes are played.
I recently has a conversation with a horn player who I knew many years ago when we were students playing in The Civic Orchestra of Chicago. I recall that he was a talented musician but did not stand out among a group of exceptionally skilled horn players in the orchestra. His teacher recommended that he find some exceptional niche he could develop to separate himself from the crowd.
He decided that he would become a master of the natural horn. Today, he is a world renown soloist who has many wonderful recordings and has taught at several major universities.
When I remarked that mastering the natural horn brought his playing to the next level, he voiced his agreement. When I said, All horns are natural, he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes.
I sing the notes in my head as I play them. It doesn’t matter how my lip feels or how I feel.
Most of the musicians who come to me for help have developed severe or complete paralysis of their chops, air, or fingers when they play. There is never any paralysis of body parts when they are not holding or playing an instrument.
When the paralysis is severe, the overwhelming flood of uncomfortable physical feedback from the instrument or their body parts, makes it impossible to consciously focus on the music.
A greater amount of time singing and buzzing must occur away from the instrument.
The most common paralyzing symptom is the inability to execute a starting note. The reason such paralysis that physical feedback (input) is dominate over awareness of sound, which is what motivates the output to produce it. If there is no conscious awareness of the sound, there is nothing for the subconscious mind to respond to in order to create it.
In the absence of a powerful conscious awareness of sound, the subconscious attempts to create sound awareness by feel either at the chops or often with the woodwind players, fingers. The subconscious attempts to convert lips or fingers into ears.
FEEL and FAIL are four letter words to a brass (woodwind, string, percussion, singer) player.
SING VOCALLY and BUZZ the mouthpiece externally as many times as necessary until you are able to transfer the singing and buzzing to the instrument. When you can maintain concentration on mentally singing each note as you play it, you will transcend the paralyzing influence of the instrument.
To alleviate first note paralysis, raise musical awareness by executing repetitions of vocal singing and buzzing until the paralysis subsides. Freedom from paralysis will always eventually occur with enough repetitions so persistence and discipline are very important. However, the initial release of paralysis will usually be short lived so the procedure must be repeated for an extended period.
AN EXPECTATION OF SUCCESS CAN ONLY RESULT FROM CREATING A HISTORY OF SUCCESS BASED ON KNOWING HOW TO SUCCEED.
Musicians become paralyzed because they have created a history of failure which also motivates their expectation of failure. We always realize our expectations no matter if they are positive or negative.
Maxwell Maltz (Psycho Cybernetics)
The mechanisms of success and failure are the same.
IF WE HAVE THE WILL AND DISCIPLINE TO RECOVER, THEN WE MUST HAVE A METHODOLOGY BASED ON AWARENESS OF SOUND, TO TAKE THE TIME TO CREATE IT. RECOVERY IS AN ENDLESS PROCESS BECAUSE WE CANNOT ERASE OUR PAST. WE MUST REPLACE OUR PAST FAILURE BY CREATING NEW SUCCESS MOMENT TO MOMENT, EVERY NOTE, EVERY DAY!
SINCE IT REQUIRED CONSIDERABLE TIME FOR THE PARALYSIS OF FOCAL DYSTONIA TO DEVELOP, IT REQUIRES TIME FOR THE PROCESS OF RECOVERY ALLEVIATE IT.
WE MUST GIVE DOMINANCE TO THE MUSIC, NOT THE MEANS TO PRODUCE IT.
TRANSFER THE SINGING AND BUZZING TO THE INSTRUMENT.
I RECOMMEND PRACTICING ENTIRE SESSIONS ON THE MOUTHPIECE ALONE TO AVOID HAVING PROBLEMS CREEP INTO YOUR PLAYING.
SELF DOUBT IS A SELF INFLICTED WOUND. RECOVERY MUST BE A SELF MOTIVATED PROCESS.
FOCAL DYSTONIA IS NOT A CAREER ENDING CONDITION WITHOUT A POSSIBLE OPPORTUNITY FOR RECOVERY.
FOCAL DYSTONIA IS A TREATABLE CONDITION IF THE MUSICIAN HAS THE WILL AND DISCIPLINE TO INVEST THE EFFORT AND TIME REQUIRED TO RECOVER.
RECOVERY IS AN ENDLESS PROCESS THAT GRADUALLY BECOMES EASIER TO ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN.
WE MUST HAVE THE COURAGE TO ACCEPT OUR MOMENTS OF FAILURE AND TO CELEBRATE OUR MOMENTS OF SUCCESS.
SING BUZZ PLAY
Our well intentioned music education institutions seek to develop instrumental performance skills quickly by focusing on self analysis, mechanical function, and instruments. A group of educators once argued teaching method to me by stating that technical analysis and instrumental focus is what everyone can understand rather than musical sound. I responded by arguing for the opposite view that the music is perceptive and understandable rather than subconscious mechanical function. We live our lives without any conscious knowledge of the complex mechanics of life support. Yet from birth we are highly sensitive to and aware of sound. Every child recognizes the melody to Happy Birthday without knowing anything technical about music.
I often remind teachers of the question they hear most often from their students. They ask, "How does it go?" We learn language because we are exposed to the sound of words not anatomy and breathing lessons. My success as an instrumental teacher has always been the result of communicating what the music should sound like. My limited technical knowledge of the various instruments I taught was always an advantage not a hindrance. Because of their long term exposure, the students always know more about their instruments but I knew much more about the music.
Today, incredible performance levels that are being achieved by musicians who have little self awareness, mechanical awareness, and don't pay much attention to the instrument in their hands. But they have a vivid and powerful awareness of the music and are completely committed to it.
SET YOUR EMBOUCHURE AND BLOW is a mindless shortcut to nowhere.
Endless focus on instrumental performance does not elicit much music. However, bountiful focus on music leads to limitless instrumental performance.
The existing antiquated and self perpetuating pedagogy prevents such development and often becomes the poison inducing paralysis. Sadly, I work with such inflicted musicians daily. Recovery is a long and difficult process. Prevention is the best medicine.
I once lamented to one of my students that the war against traditional analytical pedagogy was a frustrating uphill battle that I could not win alone.
He responded, We are soldiers in a small but growing army.
In 2015, we celebrate the 100th birthday of Arnold Jacobs. Without his powerful influence, there would be no music, no blog, no career, and no life.
THE TROOPS THANK YOU AGAIN JAKE!